Maybe I’m not as smart as I thought I was. But I lay the blame on football and its doggone unpredictability. Very frustrating.
But while football is prone to strange events in small samples, over the long haul things tend to play out. So, we stick with the program and have confidence that course corrections are coming.
This is my weekly look at the best and worst fantasy situations for the upcoming week based on matchups, teams, and our data and information compiled here at Pro Football Focus. Good luck in Week 4, and here’s hoping things actually make a little more sense going forward.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Sometimes there is an area where a defense has such an obvious weakness compared to the rest of its game that you have no choice but to hammer it as often as you can. The Giants' deficiencies against tight ends a couple years ago is a prime example. The Rams against tight ends looked like one this year at first, though that might be changing (more on that later). But the clearest example right now is Atlanta against receiving running backs. Alvin Kamara had 19 targets against the Falcons in Week 3. Christian McCaffrey had 20 in Week 2. Darren Sproles had 6 in limited Week 1 play. And yes, those are three of the prime receiving backs in the league, so here’s this: The Falcons were already almost two full PPR points per game worse against receiving backs than any other NFL team coming into Week 3 … and then allowed 37.1 receiving points to Kamara and the Saints backs. Assuming Joe Mixon doesn’t make it back this week, Bernard is an easy top-10 back in my rankings.
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
Over the last seven weeks of the 2017 season, Flacco was the No. 11 fantasy quarterback. He averaged almost 16 fantasy points a game after having averaged barely 9 up to that point. Things changed for Flacco as he got healthy in 2017, and it’s reflected across the roster — the Ravens have averaged 32 points per game over their last eight games. This week Flacco faces the Steelers, who yes, have faced Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Fitzpatrick among their three games, but either way they are allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, including making Tyrod Taylor look fantasy-competent only 11 days before he looked lost against the Jets. Flacco isn’t a QB1, but if you need a streamer or a discount DFS play, he’s your guy.
Matt Breida, RB, San Francisco 49ers
The injury to Jimmy Garoppolo is a killer for the 49ers, but it could mean good things for Breida’s fantasy stock. In his action in 2017 (these numbers courtesy PFF Fantasy’s Scott Barrett), presumptive rest-of-2018 starter C.J. Beathard targeted running backs on 32.1 percent of his pass attempts. That is the highest number in the past decade (the next three highest single-season percentages all belong to Drew Brees). And it didn’t end there; this preseason, 14 of Beathard’s 45 pass attempts (31.1 percent) went to running backs, the highest in the league again. Breida will catch passes. Alfred Morris likely won’t. Kyle Juszczyk will, but not enough to be fantasy-relevant. Breida, though, is in line for a lot of work.
Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Suggesting a guy who scored two of his three career touchdowns just this past Sunday feels an awful lot like point-chasing, but no matter — Williams is in line for a potential smash week. The Chargers face a 49ers team in Week 4 that will be without cornerback Richard Sherman, who is out with a calf injury. While Sherman’s 77.5 coverage grade is a bit below his heyday (he peaked at 92.6 with Seattle in 2012), it represents the only competent number in a San Francisco defense that ranks dead-last in PFF’s team coverage grades (35.7) and 31st in tackling (33.9, ahead of only Kansas City). Keenan Allen’s slot work isn’t likely to be majorly affected by Sherman’s absence (and you’re starting him either way), but Williams could feast.
Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Here’s the truth about tight ends: It’s bad. Rob Gronkowski is even struggling. Travis Kelce is great, Zach Ertz hasn’t disappointed, but other than that, you’re reaching. Do you trust Will Dissly? Can Tyler Eifert find the end zone? The best solution from my perspective is to do away with the tight end position in fantasy altogether and just make them all pass-catchers. But that’s not coming in Week 4, obviously, so why not pursue a tight end who just had the second-best week at the position, whose team is struggling to find any receiver depth, who had a first-round pedigree (even if he was drafted in the second), and who went from 17 snaps apiece in Weeks 1 and 2 to 55 in Week 3? Goedert is no sure thing, but then there aren’t any sure things at this godforsaken position.
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders
The Browns have allowed, in order, 9.0, 17.6, and 2.8 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. That’s 9.8 a game. In their other games played, those teams (the Steelers, Saints and Jets) have averaged 30.2 QB fantasy points (and these numbers would be even more stark if we took Sam Darnold and the Jets out of the equation). The Browns defense might not be the Jaguars or Bears, but it’s no longer the laughingstock it has been in years past. Derek Carr, meanwhile, has had weekly fantasy finishes of QB26, QB20 and QB18. Things aren’t clicking yet.
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Conner was very good for fantasy in Week 1, and it was reflected in his PFF grading (71.0 overall, 74.8 running). Since then, he’s been less impressive — 64.2 and 71.1, respectively — and his fantasy numbers have fallen as well, with 35 PPR points in Week 1, then 32 in Weeks 2 and 3 combined. His pass-blocking has been miserable — the only qualified running backs with a lower grade than his 34.6 are Adrian Peterson, Saquon Barkley and Marcus Murphy. That’s led to slightly more work for Stevan Ridley, and that could continue if Conner doesn’t start to improve. He’s an RB2, not an RB1.
Josh Gordon, WR, New England Patriots
I don’t know what to make of this Patriots offense even without the variable that is Gordon, and neither do you. No one does. Here’s what we do know: This is a player with 11 games played in the last 4.5 years, joining an offense that has been (kindly) subpar so far this year, and in his (likely) debut game goes against a Miami defense that just used its best corner to (very effectively) shadow Amari Cooper in Week 3. If you have Gordon, keep him. And keep him on your bench.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings
We were all set for a big boost to Rudolph’s value this week, thanks to a matchup against a Rams defense that shuts down receivers so well that opponents have little choice but to throw to tight ends and running backs. Unfortunately, Aqib Talib is definitely out for Week 4 and Marcus Peters likely joins him, taking the Rams secondary from the most intimidating unit in the league to … well, not that. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs will probably be fine, and that means Rudolph won’t get as many targets as you might have been expecting.
Daniel Kelley is the fantasy editor for Pro Football Focus.